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New Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's basketball history

November 12, 2012|By Eric Pincus

The Lakers announced early Monday that they signed Mike D'Antoni to be their next head coach.

The team's website said: "Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, executive vice president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak were unanimous that D'Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time."

D'Antoni rose to prominence as Steve Nash's coach in Phoenix, but the 61-year old from West Virginia has a long history in the game.

As a player, D'Antoni was drafted in 1973 by the Kansas City Kings. He also spent a year with the San Antonio Spurs and a season in the ABA.

He truly flourished in Italy, playing for Olimpia Milano. That's where a young Kobe Bryant became a D'Antoni fan. Bryant spent years in the country, where his father, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, played as well.

D'Antoni got his start as an NBA coach briefly with the Denver Nuggets during the lockout-shortened season of 1999.  He truly "arrived" with the Suns, who went from a 21-win team in D'Antoni's first year to a 62-win squad in the second.

Famous for letting his players shoot freely at an accelerated pace, D'Antoni had his best success with Nash running the point.

In 2005, D'Antoni was named "Coach of the Year," taking the Suns to the Western Conference finals, where they fell to the Spurs in five games.

The Lakers and Suns met in a memorable series in 2006, when the underdog Lakers took a 3-1 lead, only to lose in seven games. Phoenix went on to defeat the Clippers in seven before falling to the Dallas Mavericks in the conference finals (4-2).

D'Antoni and the Suns took out the Lakers again in 2007 but lost to the Spurs in a controversial series in which Amar'e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended a game for (slightly) leaving the bench during an on-court altercation.

The Suns were bounced early in the first round by their nemesis (the Spurs) in 2008, after which the New York Knicks were able pry D'Antoni away with a lucrative contract.

It took some time for the talent level to rise in New York, and his lone playoff appearance in 2011 ended with a sweep by the Boston Celtics.

D'Antoni was fired by the Knicks last season after 42 games.

In addition to years coaching Nash, D'Antoni helped Kobe Bryant and Team USA to a Olympic gold medal in 2012, as an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski.

D'Antoni is expected to be formally introduced by the Lakers sometime this week, although the exact timing remains unclear.


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